Backup Plans Are Important for Real Estate Photographers

Do you have a backup plan? Working with expensive electronics, real estate photographers need to be aware of the potential for something to go wrong. And when something does go wrong, how will you get by without disrupting your work schedule?


Lens Busted

You never know when something might happen that can derail you and your business. The other night after returning home I pulled out my camera gear and I was in a hurry because it was raining. I lost grip of my camera and it flew to the concrete, busting the lens in half. This lens is the Canon EF-S 10-22mm, my work-horse lens for real estate photography shoots.

Panic First

Just do it, get it out of your system. I was yelling outside at the thought of a $600 lens being broken in half on my driveway, in the rain. You’ll soon realize that being mad isn’t going to repair the camera lens, so it’s time to focus and figure out the next time. You DO have a plan B for when something like this happens…right?

Plan B

One of the best decisions I made near the start of my business was to add video as part of my services. Not only was it a great way to gain new clients and work, but to provide a video product with the quality I would be happy with I decided to get an additional body. I added a full-frame Canon to my lineup which resulted in having to buy an additional wide-angle lens (the EF-S 10-22mm doesn’t work on the new full-frame body). Having a second camera body and wide-angle lens affords me a backup camera in case one of the setups fails.

It’s not a direct swap, sure it takes some adjustments both from the equipment side and usability side. I use one camera specifically for still photos, the other for video. So it takes me a couple of minutes to figure out how to do stills with my “video” camera. It also takes some equipment adjustments. The quick mounts on my bodies are different so the tripod I normally use for stills needs to be adapted to accept the different quick release. When all is said and done, a 15 minute equipment swap and knowledge refresher is all that’s needed to be back in business.

Minimize Your Downtime

You may just be starting out and you can’t afford two camera bodies – and that’s fine. Figure out what works for you and what your best backup plan is. You’ll want a backup plan that minimizes your downtime so you don’t have to cancel/reschedule shoots. If you have to do any rescheduling, hopefully it’s at a minimum. Here are a couple of options for a Plan B:

  • Do what I do, and have duplicate hardware that works for different services you offer. If it’s interchangeable it will prevent you from missing a day of work.
  • Know where your nearest camera store is that offers rentals. I can borrow a 10-22mm lens from my local camera shop for $25/day or $100/week.
  • Connect with other photographers through Meetup, some local group, or reach out to other real estate photographers in your area. If you build a relationship with other photographers you might be able to borrow equipment when yours fails.
  • Keeping a client happy is better than ruining a successful relationship by having to reschedule. If you can’t reschedule in a timely manner, refer your client to another real estate photographer in your area.

Don’t Delay Fixing Your Equipment

As quick as you can, figure out how to get your equipment replaced. I’ll detail my results at the end of this post and update it with all of the costs associated with my repair. I only use Canon equipment so that’s the only experience I have. I’m sure other manufacturers have similar repair procedures.

Learn A Lesson

There will probably be something you can learn from this misfortune. In my case, it’s be more careful with my equipment especially when I’m in a hurry. Was it worth the hassle/cost of a broken lens to rush and get out of the rain? As mentioned before, being negative or hard on yourself won’t fix the situation. Stay positive and learn from what happened so you can prevent it from happening in the future, or if it does happen you’ll be better prepared.

My Experience

The Canon EF-S 10-22mm broke in the center. It appears there are three ribbons that connect the two halves together. One ribbon remained in-tact, one came unplugged, and the third was torn in half.

I filled out all of the information related to my issue on Canon’s Repair site. They had me print out a form that I needed to include in the box when I sent them the lens, and they also provided a shipping label. I also had to provide my credit card information and due to this being a repair outside of warranty (and not maintenance), I was quoted their standard $129 rate.

I took the lens to a FedEx Office location first thing the next morning. I removed the BOTH front and rear lens caps, UV Filter and lens hood. Per Canon’s instructions, just the bare lens should be sent in for repair. FedEx provided the box and packaging material. It could have been slightly cheaper to package the lens myself, but a couple of bucks is worth the time savings for me.

The lens was shipped on 11/5/2013 via FedEx Ground, ~3 business days.

Total Costs

$154.44 – Canon Repair Service, 11/5/2013 – (They add cost for return shipping I believe, and also tax, so this rate is higher than the $129 base rate.)

$27.93  Packaging + Shipping from FedEx, 11/5/2013


(Note this value could change once they receive the lens as it may need more work than covered in their base rate.)

Update 11/11/2013 @ 8AM CST

My lens arrived and was signed for at the Canon Service Factory on Friday, 11/8/2013 @ 8:30am. However when I check the status online, it states:

“The repair request you have submitted has not yet been received at our Factory Service Center or is an invalid case. Please contact us if you require further assistance.”

We’ll give it another day or so before I contact them. My assumption is their system is behind, or they just didn’t get to it on Friday.

Update 11/11/2013 @ 5PM CST

It looks like they have started to fix my lens. Upon checking the status of my service online, it now states:

“We are in the process of servicing your Canon product.”

Update 11/12/2013 @ 6:30PM CST

I received an email from Canon stating my repair is complete and my lens has been shipped back to me. ETA Thursday 11/14/2013 by 8PM

Update 11/13/2013 @ 11AM CST

I received a voicemail from FedEx letting me know my package would be here on Thursday, and that a signature is required. I have the option to leave a note on the front door if nobody will be present to sign. Good to see FedEx letting their customers know a signature is required – it’s always disappointing missing a shipment and having to track it down!

Update 11/14/2013 @ 5PM CST

I received the lens! Repaired and cleaned, it looks as good as new!

Update 8/8/2014

I broke it again! I had it on my tripod, holding it in my hand while talking on the phone to a client outside, and the camera came loose from the head of the tripod and tumbled to the sidewalk.

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